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The Week 2 slate in the NFL did not disappoint.
Several teams poised to be contenders pulled through and stayed perfect. The defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers look like, so far, there's no hangover from last February. The Los Angeles Rams pulled out a hard-fought victory against the Colts.
But some teams that many had predicted would be contenders were facing an 0-2 hole early in the season and gutted out victories. The Baltimore Ravens thrilled with their comeback win against the defending AFC champion Chiefs, and the Dallas Cowboys went on the road and beat an upstart Chargers squad.
Individually, some players are already on record-setting pace and no one has been more impressive than Tom Brady.
Here are the winners and losers from Week 2 in the NFL.
Tom Brady's dominance of NFL records
It's getting harder and harder to not place Tom Brady as the G.O.A.T. What Brady is doing for the Buccaneers, at 44 years old, is one of the most remarkable accomplishments in modern sports. In Tampa Bay's 48-25 stomping of the Falcons, Brady completed 24 of 36 passes for 276 yards and five touchdowns. It marked Brady's fourth consecutive game, dating back to last season, with at least four passing touchdowns, tying him for the second-longest streak in NFL history with former Dolphin Dan Marino. Former rival and friend Peyton Manning is the lone passer with a streak of five games.
— Tipico Sportsbook (@tipico) September 19, 2021
Brady now has thrown for an NFL-most nine passing touchdowns this season. Suddenly, the NFL's single-season passing touchdown record of 55, set by Manning in 2013, could very feasibly fall. Considering that NFL regular seasons are now 17 games, Brady is on pace to throw for 76 touchdowns. His production should return to the mean in coming weeks. But after a Super Bowl run in 2020 and this roster stacked and ready for another run, Brady is very much in position to stamp his name elsewhere all over NFL history.
Credit the Ravens for sticking through a tough opponent, credit a squad beset by injuries and credit coach John Harbaugh for trusting his franchise quarterback to seal the come-from-behind victory against one of the powers of the AFC. The Ravens toppled the defending AFC champion Chiefs, 36-35, in a thriller.
Baltimore showed that it has an outfit that can challenge the Chiefs in the AFC, if certain things break right. It did require a massive forced fumble and recovery from rookie edge rusher Odafe Oweh, but when Lamar Jackson can take over games with his legs and when the Ravens can maul the Chiefs' defensive front in run blocking, Baltimore could be a tough out — even with their terrible luck with injuries. Baltimore ran for 251 yards, Jackson having a game-high 107 with three total touchdowns, and dominated the clock in the second half. The Ravens still need to clean up their turnover issues and the secondary often gave up big plays, but this was the kind of victory that can build momentum for the rest of the season, especially since it came against an opponent that Jackson hadn't yet beaten in his time as a starter.
Arguably the biggest surprise of the NFL season so far is the 2-0 Las Vegas Raiders. The record is notable, but what makes it most impressive is the teams the Raiders have taken down: the Ravens in the opener and the Steelers, 26-17, on Sunday. And while the Vegas defense has been huge so far this season, Carr is the player pushing the team forward.
With 382 passing yards & 2 TD passes in today's @Raiders victory, @derekcarrqb is the 5th QB in the Super Bowl era with 375+ passing yards & 2+ TD passes in each of his team's first two games of a season. pic.twitter.com/6RyuIUkIwQ
— NFL345 (@NFL345) September 19, 2021
Through two games, Carr leads the NFL with 817 passing yards, 128 more yards than the next closest player, Kyler Murray of the Cardinals. Carr is looking downfield and is spreading the ball; in each of Las Vegas' victories, Carr has completed passes to eight different targets. Though he doesn't get the publicity that many other passers do, Carr is — thanks to his efficiency — the biggest reason why the Raiders could be a surprise in the AFC wild-card chase.
NFL WEEK 2: 32 things we learned
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This has nothing to do with the officials making the calls. They're merely doing what's asked of them, to enforce the "points of emphasis" the NFL's competition committee resolved to push through this season — basically that any time a player flexes on an opponent after a play, it will result in a taunting penalty. Week 2 saw several. Texans tight end Jordan Akins was flagged for spinning the ball on the ground after a first down against the Browns. Seahawks cornerback D.J. Reed for flexing as he walked away from Titans receiver AJ Brown when he broke up a pass in the fourth quarter. Rams tight end Jared Cook had a taunting penalty for spinning the ball after a touchdown, but that one wasn't applied because a questionable holding wiped out the score, anyway.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 19, 2021
This does nothing but weaken the product the NFL is trying to market to millions. Energy translates on the TV screen. And when it's missing, the intensity dips. Not only do fans want to see emotion, they don't want to see close games have their results determined by judgment calls of the officials who will certainly be feeling pressure to do what is asked of them. It also begs the question of how consistently these penalties will be applied from game to game and week to week. It didn't happen on Sunday. But, based on the way these are being called, it's only a matter of time before a high-profile game changes because of this.
Too many missing Saints
Perhaps it was because they were down eight coaches as COVID-19 swept through the team's front office. Perhaps it was because of the rash of injuries on defense. But the Saints' 26-7 dud against the Panthers showed that, while this team may be capable of greatness on some weeks, it will need less adversity to become consistent.
This was the worst offensive performance of coach Sean Payton's time in New Orleans; the 128 total yards of offense mark the lowest total the team has ever recorded in Payton's 15 seasons. Quarterback Jameis Winston led the team in rushing yards. He had 19. Winston also struggled to identify Carolina's pressures so the Panthers front seven spent a lot of time in the New Orleans backfield, collecting four sacks and 11 QB hits. New Orleans simply couldn't stay on the field — or keep Carolina off it. The Saints converted just two of 11 third down attempts and allowed the Panthers to move the chains on eight of their 15 tries. Though the loss comes in the division, it's far too early for it to be devastating. But starting next week, New Orleans needs to do whatever it can to make sure it's as close to full strength.
Again, the Seattle Seahawks fumbled away a late-game scenario that looked to be a sure victory. Seattle allowed the Titans to score 14 unanswered points in the final 13 minutes of regulation in their eventual 33-30 loss in overtime. It wasn't just that the Seahawks imploded, it was how. They scored a touchdown on a 68-yard bomb to receiver Freddie Swain. They missed the extra point. Two plays later, Titans running back Derrick Henry put it within one score on a 60-yard touchdown rush. Then, the Seahawks had two chances to milk the clock down, but gave the ball back before the Titans tied the game just before the end of regulation.
According to the NGS win probability model, the Titans had as low as a 4% chance of winning the game with 13:16 left in the 4th quarter.
Titans kicker Randy Bullock finished the 33-30 comeback victory with a 36-yard game-winning field goal in OT.#TENvsSEA | #Titans pic.twitter.com/NodQdkxM2N
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) September 20, 2021
The Seahawks won't have much margin of error this season in what should be a stacked NFC West. The effort on tackling in the second half let Seattle down and Henry ran wild. In fact, Tennessee's entire offense did, punting just once in the second half and only twice in the game. The Titans recorded 33 first downs to Seattle's 17 and outgained the Seahawks 532-397.
Colts in the red zone
The Indianapolis Colts lost their game against the Los Angeles Rams by three points. That's what makes the team's performance inside the red zone — and in particular in goal-to-go situations — all the more frustrating for Indy fans. The Colts converted just one of four trips inside the 20 into a touchdown. In goal-to-go spots, it was one of three. And the problem started early in the game.
— NFL (@NFL) September 19, 2021
The Rams held the Colts on a goal-line stand on Indy's opening offensive possession of the game. The final four snaps of the drive came from the L.A. 1-yard line. Then, midway through the second quarter, Colts quarterback Carson Wentz telegraphed a shovel pass that linebacker Troy Reeder picked off. That play came on a third down, where taking a sack would've allowed the shot for a chip-in field goal try. The Colts are now just three of eight in red zone conversions and are 0-2 on the season. The quickest way to fix that is to finish drives.
The Jets QB situation
This was about as ugly as it can get for a quarterback. Jets rookie passer Zach Wilson unraveled in a 25-6 loss against the Patriots. And with that, New England coach Bill Belichick haunted another rookie quarterback. Wilson threw four interceptions, including two on the very first two attempts of the day. In fact, when Wilson threw his third interception, there was 5:50 left in the second quarter and he was 2-for-5 passing. That meant that, at that point, Wilson had completed more passes to Patriots players. He finished the day 19-of-33 passing for 210 yards with no touchdowns and the four picks.
This sums up a lot of things:
Zach Wilson is the 4th rookie top-5 pick with 0 Pass TD and 4+ Int in a game in the last 20 seasons. The last 3 QBs to do it were all Jets. Others were Sam Darnold and Mark Sanchez. FYI: Alex Smith did it in 2005. #Jets @ESPNStatsInfo
— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) September 19, 2021
Bad games happen for rookie quarterbacks. And it often seems that when things start to get out of hand, they spiral. But what's concerning is that some of the Wilson picks were completely self-inflicted. The final two came from completely clean pockets when Wilson had time to throw. His ball placement was off, under-throwing his third interception and sailing his fourth. This Jets team, to be sure, lacks star talent. But these throws were forced and so often unnecessary. Said Jets coach Robert Saleh: "It's OK to play a boring game of football, that's really it."
Making matters worse for Jets fans, the passer they dumped to draft Wilson, Sam Darnold posted a solid day (26-of-38 passing for 305 yards) for the Panthers in their upset of the Saints.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL Week 2 winners, losers: Tom Brady, Buccaneers continue to impress